Historical Figures

Lucy Stone, feminist and abolitionist

Lucy Stone (1818 – 1893) was an American feminist and abolitionist. She is also the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree and the first American woman to keep her birth name after marriage.

First feminist fights

The eighth child of a family of farmers, Lucy Stone was born on August 13, 1818 in Massachusetts. Very quickly put to work with her brothers and sisters, Lucy is quickly struck by the sexual division of tasks that reigns in her family as well as by her father's authoritarianism over her mother.

At 16, Lucy started teaching in the neighboring village to earn some money for her family. In 1837, she made a replacement at Paxton and realized with indignation that she received half of what the titular professor, a man, received. Protesting, she gets a raise but her salary remains lower than that of a man.

Fight for the abolition of slavery

In 1838, Lucy Stone began studies at a university for women; there she studied algebra, history, geography, logic, literature… However, she had to agree to pay back to her father the sum she would have earned by working during this time. During this period, she discovers the Liberator , a publication that advocates the abolition of slavery.

The same year, Lucy was called home for the funeral of her sister, who had died aged 22. She does not go back to university but moves in with her late sister to take care of her two daughters. She resumes a job as a teacher, repays the amount she owes her father and takes lessons in Latin, grammar and mathematics. She reads the writings of Angélina and Sarah Grimké, two abolitionist women who speak in public, and who compare the situation of slaves with that of women. Lucy is very marked by these writings and, later, by a prohibition of the congregation she frequents to let women use the pulpit to speak about slavery.

Feminist and abolitionist speaker

In August 1843, Lucy Stone entered Oberlin College. There she became friends with Antoinette Brown, a feminist and abolitionist who wanted to become a pastor, a position to which women did not have access at the time. They marry two abolitionist brothers, thus becoming sisters-in-law, and Lucy does not take her husband's name. Since women are not allowed to speak in public, Lucy and Antoinette create a secret debating society for women. On August 1, 1846, Lucy made her first public appearance, at the invitation of an abolitionist society. She then decides to lead the life of a lecturer; her family tries to talk her out of it, but she perseveres.

In June 1847, Lucy graduated from Oberlin College. She resumed teaching, mainly for financial matters, and began to give speeches on abolitionism and women's rights. Eloquent, she was quickly noticed and hired as a speaker at the American anti-slavery society. However, her employers quickly reproached her for involving the question of women's rights in her speeches, and she agreed to give abolitionist speeches on weekends and feminist speeches during the week.

In 1852, for practical reasons, Lucy cut her hair square and began to wear bloomers, baggy pants. She then suffered enormous social pressure, being followed and insulted in the street by young men and boys. An activist for women's rights, she was involved in the temperance movement and advocated the possibility for women to divorce an alcoholic husband.

Lucy Stone died on October 19, 1893. She was enshrined in the National Women's Hall of Fame.